The World’s Oldest Cruise Ship Will Be Scrapped

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The Astoria, a storied cruise ship with a rich and varied history, has reached the end of its journey as it will set sail one last time to a ship-breaking yard in the European Union. Currently docked in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, the ship will soon be sailing on her last voyage. 

The 16,144-gt ship, which has served as a transatlantic passenger vessel, a cruise ship for the German Communist party, a barracks for asylum seekers, and a modern cruise ship, among other things, has been sold for recycling by a company based in Puerto Rico. 

Astoria to be Scrapped After 75 Years of Service

The world’s longest-serving cruise ship, Astoria, will be scrapped in the coming weeks or months. The sale of the Astoria to a European Union-approved shipbreaking yard, most likely the Aliaga Ship Recycling Facility in Turkey, marks the end of a long and eventful life for this floating piece of history.

TradeWinds reported the sale of the vessel by The Roundtable LLC of Puerto Rico for an undisclosed amount. S&P Global’s International Ships Register lists its status as “to be broken up.”

Astoria With Cruise & Maritime Voyages Look
Astoria With Cruise & Maritime Voyages Look (Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock)

Astoria has had a long and storied history, serving as a transatlantic passenger vessel, a cruise ship for the German Communist party, a barracks for asylum seekers, and a modern cruise ship. 

Despite its many lives and names, Astoria will be remembered as a unique and unforgettable ship with a rich history spanning nearly 75 years, more than any other cruise ship in history.

A Floating Piece of History

The Astoria, then called the Stockholm, was ordered by Swedish American Line in 1944 and was completed in 1948. In February 1948, the ship set sail on her maiden voyage as a transatlantic passenger vessel, offering luxury voyages between Sweden and the United States. 

Stockholm’s early years were marked by a major disaster when the ship collided with the Italian liner Andrea Dorea in 1956, causing the latter to sink. It earned the vessel the name “la nave della morte,” or the ship of death. Although Stockholm was severely damaged, it managed to limp to New York for repairs.

The MN Stockholm
The MN Stockholm

Between 1960 and 1985, Stockholm served as a cruise ship for the German Communist party under the name Volkerfreundschaft

In 1970, the ship made the headlines again when a machinist jumped overboard to defect, followed by three medical researchers who wanted to escape Communism. Astoria had been sailing past Key West on the way to Cuba. All four were picked up by a small boat, which had come out in rough seas to the Communist ship to meet the machinist.

After a change in ownership, the ship was renamed Fridtjof Nansen and was chartered by the Norwegian government as a shelter for asylum seekers in Oslo.

The End of the Line for the Astoria

In 1989, Italy’s Starlauro took ownership to convert it into the cruise ship Sorrento. However, before renovations, the company Nina di Navigazione acquired the liner and transported it to a shipyard for a complete overhaul. The result was the Italia Prima, which could accommodate up to 580 passengers.

Italia Prima Refit
Italia Prima Refit (Photo: Creative Commons)

Over the next few years, the Italia Prima changed hands and names several times, becoming the Athena, the Azores, and finally the Astoria when it joined the Cruise and Maritime Voyages fleet in 2015.

Astoria’s journey ended when Cruise & Maritime Voyages went bankrupt in 2020 due to the global pause in operations. While there was some hope that a cryptocurrency billionaire would restore Astoria in mid-2021 with the intention of using it as a cruise ship, these plans have since been put on hold. 

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